Thursday, September 30, 2010

Large Blue Butterfly

Large Blue Butterfly is both a common name and a description for Phengaris arion (sometimes also called Maculinea arion). It is a species of butterfly that lives in 37 countries throughout continental Europe, and was reintroduced to Southern England after going extinct there in 1979 due to habitat loss. They  are found in warm, dry locations which are often also home to Thyme and Marjoram, plants that are important to the reproductive process. Large Blue Butterflies have wingspans of about 2in, and are blue with black spots.

(Image Source)
Large Blue Butterflies have an interesting life-cycle. Eggs are laid on the aforementioned Thyme or Marjoram plants and when they hatch, the caterpillars will consume the plant that they hatched upon, molting 3 times. After the third molt, the still-small caterpillars drop to the ground where they attract Myrmica sabuleti red ants with a sweet secretion from their body. The ant will feed on the secretion, and after it is finished the caterpillar will inflate the skin behind its head. The ant mistakes the caterpillar for one of its own larvae, and carries it back to the nest, where the caterpillar then proceeds to eat all of the ant larvae, hibernate, and eventually pupate.

Adult Large Blue Butterflies emerge in June and have sadly short lives. While a caterpillar may live 9 months or longer, adults typically only hand on for a few weeks at the very most. This is just long enough for them to find a mate and reproduce.

Large Blue Butterflies are listed as Near Threatened.

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